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Composer critical of Russian collecting society becomes President of its Authors’ Council

By | Published on Wednesday 31 August 2016

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A producer and composer who has been critical of Russian collecting society RAO has been elected as President of its Authors’ Council, which is the main governing body of the organisation. Some now wonder if Igor Matvienko will attempt to reform the society, though he has already distanced himself from a group attempting a radical overhaul of the collective licensing body.

As previously reported, RAO is currently fighting off fraud allegations which have led to the society’s General Director Sergei Fedotov being arrested and held in jail. It is alleged the rights body used around 500 million rubles of money it collected on behalf of songwriters to buy four buildings in Moscow, ownership of which was then transferred to other companies and individuals. RAO management deny any wrongdoing.

In the wake of that controversy, a small group of Russian writers called an extraordinary conference of the society, which would have the power to replace Fedotov and rewrite the organisation’s constitution. But Matvienko, while conceding he too has issues with the way RAO is run, was nevertheless critical of that mini revolution.

On becoming President of the RAO Authors’ Council, he said: “As any living organism RAO has its own pros and cons. And I’ve just recently expressed my opinion on those disadvantages openly. Nevertheless, this organisation has a long history, it is the heir of [previous society] VAAP and it currently counts over 26,000 authors [as members]. We should take into consideration all of inefficiencies and take further actions to rectify them. But we shall not allow anyone to destroy our native RAO”.

Meanwhile, yesterday the Authors’ Council itself issued a more overt rebuttal of those efforts to call an extraordinary conference, and of the members making that call.

It’s Vice President, composer Oleg Galakhov, said: “The more royalties RAO collects, the more often different people try to raid the organisation. RAO is constantly developing together with the whole sector of copyright protection. I don’t think that this ‘self-appointed group’ cares about authors, transparency or any positive changes. What are they going to do after seizing RAO? No one knows. Their goal at the moment is to brake and ruin the existing organisation. Very few people are capable of creating something new”.

Meanwhile, the Council confirmed that it believed Fedotov to be innocent of the fraud charges, and therefore they continue to back him as the boss of the RAO.

Alexander Klevitsky, another VP of the Council, said: “The question of changing the General Director hasn’t been discussed at this meeting of the Authors’ Council. We haven’t discussed anything of that sort. Sergey Fedotov was officially elected at the last legitimate – I’d like to stress that – legitimate Conference of RAO. Mr Fedotov is the General Director of RAO, and there are absolutely no reasons for electing a new one. We are waiting for the incident to be over, and for Sergey Fedotov to return to his work”.

So, all in all, it still very much remains to be seen whether the appointment of Matvienko to the President role will bring about any changes at the society.